Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ganpati part 1 and other updates

Time for a Hindu mythology lesson/Indian history lesson about the latest festival.

Once upon a time, Shiva (one of the big 3 Hindu Gods, along with Brahma and Vishnu) left his home for a very extended time to go up to Mount Khailash in the Himalayas to meditate (this mountain is real and apparently if you climb it you are liable to find Shiva there - of course the catch is that you have to climb one of the Himalayas). During the early part of his approx. 20-year absence, his wife Parvati had a son, a fellow named Ganesha. Being the son of a god, Ganesha was rather a powerful guy. Anyways, upon his return Shiva attempted to enter his house. His young son had been told by his mother to let no strangers into the house. And he and his father had never met. Shiva became quite enraged with the impertinence of whom he thought was a simple doorman, so he broke through the door and beheaded his son.

Being informed of his horrific mistake, Shiva ordered his closest servant to go out into the woods, behead the first animal he saw, and to bring the head to Shiva. The animal turned out to be an elephant. So Shiva fixed the elephants head to the neck of his son and revived him. His wife said something along the lines of "who is ever going to worship a God with an elephant head?" At which point Shiva decided to vest quite extraordinary powers in his son so that people would worship him. From that point on, Ganesha became the number one deity asked for advice.

Now the history part. It's not quite as lengthy. In the early days of the Indian revolutionary movement, leaders needed a place to meet. So they contrived a festival in which everyone in a community gathered to pray to a statue of Lord Ganesha. In revolutionary days it was a foil, but they decided that they liked it, so they kept it.

Begininng on September 11th (this year at least, it changes every year through unknown determining factors), in every society (which is just what they mean by neighborhood) a Ganpati comes. A Ganpati is a sizable statue of Lord Ganesha. It could be made out of anything. Most are made, I think, of some kind of plastic material, but that kind of makes it sound less fancy than it is. I believe a few are from porcelain, and there's this really cool one around that's made of newspaper. That one's my favorite. Basically all of them are giant statues of elephants with a bunch of adornments like Indian clothes and jewelry. They're extremely attractive.

For weeks a kind of stage has been sitting in our society, and on Saturday the Ganpati came to it. This event was very exciting for the people of the society. Apparently they really love Lord Ganesha. It was celebrated with trademark record-settingly loud drums and some dancing. I participated, as usual exceptional self-conscious about my own dancing. It was pretty fun but was unfortunately rained about by a completely unexpected and cataclysmic monsoon rain. Ah well. I still like the rain. It's one of my favorite parts of this.

For the rest of the 11-day festival, the Ganpati really just sits there. At nine o clock every night, a kind of prayer specialist visits our society and leads those who choose to come in a kind of chanted prayer. I haven't actually been to this because, I don't know, my family doesn't ask me to and I kinda feel like it would be rude to just gawk at a bunch of people doing something very seriously religious to them.

I would post some pictures of the Ganpati but with my Internet connection it would take like, hours. And I apologize, but I just don't want to do that. For some reason the Facebook uploader works very quickly (relatively speaking, of course), so that's where I publish stuff mostly.

Other News
I've never really been completely healthy here. The climate is just so very different from the US, and the food, while tasty, is not what I'm used to and sometimes it messes with my stomach. I'm frequently exhausted during the day, but oddly enough I have a lot of trouble getting to sleep at night. I also have really nasty headaches a lot. Right now everything has culminated with a bout of fever, headache, stomacheache and all sorts of other disgusting details that are unnecessary. It's getting very annoying to me that I can't stay healthy here, but I guess that's just a part of adjusting to a new climate. I mean, I don't get sick that much in the US, and this is honestly just about the most unpleasant I have ever felt in my life.

I have a new school. It's a college for Interior Design and Architecture. I love it, based on the one day that I toured it before I came down with this abominable illness. It's clean (Shardayatan has about 50 metric tons of trash all over the place), the students seem to have moved passed the age of 6, and they actually learn. More on all of this later. I must say, Interior Design has never exactly been my calling. As in I have absolutely no experience or prior interest. But nonetheless, it seems fairly interesting, and Sam Estenson probably didn't think he would be going to a Fishery school when he signed up for Rotary, so I can deal. And my other exchange student friends will be there too. It runs from 8 AM to 230 AM, attendance is compulsory, and there's school on Saturday. So basically it's like a school day in the US, except for the Saturday. I think it might be nice to get into kind of a busy school rhythm again. It'll feel like I'm living a little bit more normal life.

I've also started a guitar class four days a week, and I think I might buy a guitar so I can practice at home. And guitars, like everything, cost about an 1/8 as much here as in the US, so that seems to be an excellent life investment for me to make. So between the new school, yoga, and guitar, I suddenly find myself exponentially more busy than I have been previously, which is definitely a good thing. I've been talking to some past India-exchange students, and a lot of them say they were having trouble finding things to keep busy with early on. Indian school is unfortunately just so completely worthless to an outsider that it's tricky to find things to do. I consider myself quite lucky all of this has fallen into my lap.


  1. Ted! I hope you feel better soon! Also, enjoy your new school!

  2. guitar, yoga, monsoon rain, a good school, awesome festivals, people predicting your future...your life is so awesome! now all you need to do is get better and enjoy it. i hope you feel better soon :]